In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned that part of building a personal learning environment is building up a knowledge bank – finding others who have either done what you are doing or have done something similar, and then storing them in a manner that you can find again. In essence, you’re building an information stream, specialized to your project and your interests.
But you need to build that information stream in a way you’ll actually use, and that varies from person to person. I can point out some of the tools available. I can tell you how I do it. But ultimately, you will have to explore what’s out there and figure out what works for you. At the very least, you’ll want a way to keep track of blogs, websites, and social media.
Suggested Tools I have Experience With (There are a lot more out there. I’m just fussy.)
- RSS Readers (Useful for following blogs and news sites)
- Social Media Management
- Instapaper – Best for bookmarking articles and posts you want to read when you have more time. (I have a bad habit of storing articles I need for current or upcoming projects here.)
- delicious – A simple-to-use social bookmarking tool. Connects to Twitter and Facebook.
- Springpad – A web clipper that tries too hard to be a Swiss Army knife aimed at the Pinterest crowd. But the organization abilities are slightly more flexible than most notetaking apps.
- EverNote – A web clipper and notes manager. Fairly rigid organization abilities.
- Pinboard – I have never used it, but people whose opinion I trust swear by it.
My workflow starts with feedly and my Lists on Twitter and Facebook. Articles worth a closer look get saved to Instapaper. Articles related to projects I’m working on or planning go to Springpad. And then I forget to review anything unless I create a task for it on my to-do list. It’s a fantastic system! *laugh*
Once you’re a bit more familiar with the tools and have selected a couple you’d like to try (and no more than two starting out. Each new tool you add tends to triple your workload. Not even kidding.), you need to fill them so you’re getting information from them. You can add friends, coworkers, people you know who share a common interest or hobby, and then you should look at:
- Others Learning the Same (or Similar) Material – Developing a personal learning network (which is a conversation for another time) starts with identifying healthy communities of practice. Find them, follow them, contribute to them, and befriend them.
- Subject Matter and Industry Experts – Learning to copy masters and then develop your own voice from there is a time-honored tradition. Find the masters, the innovators, and the crackpots who work in your industry or with your interests. Follow them. Be respectful in your interactions with them. Learn from their mistakes.
- Related Organizations – Groups that do what you want to do, that you are a member of, or that are doing really interesting things.
- The Companies Behind Your Favorite Tools – There is seriously nothing like waking up the morning you have three things due, only to find two of the tools you are using suffered major overhauls or crashes in the middle of the night and you can no longer access your information. (This is also why backups are your friend.)
What’s really nice is that when your project is finished, you still have this carefully built information stream. As you continue to work on projects, you build the next project’s information stream on top of the what you already have. If you take the time to prune out resources as they are no longer needed or relevant, you will find that your information stream becomes a pretty good source of information, inspiration, and contacts tailored to your body of work and your interests.